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Gov. Pete Ricketts and his father, Joe, are the main funders -- so far -- for the campaign to stop repeal of the death penalty. 

Nebraskans for the Death Penalty, which is conducting a petition campaign to stop the repeal and put the issue on a 2016 ballot, had raised nearly $244,000 as of Thursday -- mostly from the Ricketts family. 

Contributors listed also included 10 others who donated $250 or more. 

"We're pleased with the support from donors and volunteers from across Nebraska in such a short amount of time," said campaign spokesman Chris Peterson.

He said unsolicited donations have come in the mail and online, and the group has reached out to Nebraskans across the state who want to save the death penalty, encouraging them to give their time or money.

The group has been gratified at the response to the petition drive so far, he said, but it has a long way to go to reach its goal of 150,000-plus signatures.

A report the campaign will file with the Nebraska Accountability and Disclosure Commission shows the group has spent $217,537, much of it -- $192,129 -- going to the Lincoln Strategy Group, headquartered in Arizona and headed by Nathan Sproul, a Republican strategist and political consultant for numerous election campaigns. 

The Lincoln Strategy Group payments are for consulting, salaries, travel, staffing firms for paid circulators and other costs. 

Other expenses include: $14,737 to CP Strategies of Lincoln, owned by spokesman Peterson, for vendors; and about $6,000 to Rod Edwards of Omaha for consulting. 

Other consulting fees of $18,000 to various firms and individuals, and $7,400 in legal fees are listed as unpaid bills. 

Pete Ricketts and his father, founder and former CEO of TD Ameritrade, each contributed $100,000; Michael Cassling, CEO of Cassling, an Omaha diagnostic medical imaging equipment dealer, gave $25,000; Omaha Police Union, $10,000; cattlemen Jerry Adams and William Adams of Broken Bow, $1,500 each; and R.J. Thomas, of Thomas Livestock of Broken Bow, $2,500; plus others.

The campaign has until the end of the month to file its report with Accountability and Disclosure, Peterson said. 

The Legislature repealed the death penalty in May, and then voted 30-19 to override Ricketts' veto of the bill (LB268). 

The campaign to stop the repeal started soon after. It needs the valid signatures of 10 percent of registered voters -- somewhere around 115,000 -- to stop the bill from going into effect at the end of August, then go to a vote in 2016. About half that number of signatures would mean the law goes into effect, but the measure still could go on the November 2016 ballot.

Kevin O'Hanlon, communications director for Nebraskans for Public Safety, a coalition opposing reinstatement of the death penalty, said of the fundraising report, "The report speaks for itself. We don’t have any further comment beyond that. Nebraskans for Public Safety is focused on getting the message out to Nebraska voters that our death penalty is broken beyond repair and that it's simply time to move on."

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Reach the writer at 402-473-7228 or jyoung@journalstar.com. On Twitter @LJSLegislature.

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State government reporter

JoAnne Young covers state government, including the Legislature and state agencies, and the people they serve.

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